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Sunday 4 December 2016

Ireland up against physical Pumas in tough U20 World Cup opener

Ireland's lighter forwards will have to stand up tall

Garry Ringrose
Garry Ringrose

The loss of fly-half Ross Byrne to a back injury is about as big a one man blow Ireland could take before the beginning of their first match at the U20 World Cup in Parma today (KO 3.30 Irish time, Live TG4).

Joey Carbery will have first shot at wearing his boots and will depend on the experience outside him with Ulster's PRO12 centre Sam Arnold and last year's short-listed nominee for U20Player of the Year Leinster's Garry Ringrose at thirteen.

The man from Athy will not come in totally cold as he was called off the bench four times already in the Six Nations and shares with fellow backs Nick McCarthy, Ringrose and Billy Dardis the same club UCD.

In fact, it was just four years ago that Carbery and loose-head Jeremy Loughman were the main drivers behind Ard Scoil na Trionoide's victory in the almost obscure Leinster Schools Section A Junior Shield final before both furthered their rugby education at Blackrock College, a remarkable legacy achievement by the Athy school that should not be discounted.

Intriguingly, Carbery is also a different kind of ten to Byrne, bringing an unpredictability and X-Factor element that could just work well for the Irish or, conversely, reduce their potency in attack.

It is with the ball, particularly through the middle and out wide, where Ireland have to tools to test the best.

difficult

It is winning, retaining and using the ball to find the front-foot that will be most difficult against the big, beefy Baby Pumas.

"Argentina up first, they'll be a physical side like any Argentinian team, very set piece orientated. It's a huge challenge and we're not going to look too far ahead," said Ringrose.

The South Americans will bring their own special brand of physicality to this one and it was in this specific area that Ireland fell short as the Six Nations wore on.

The front row of Loughman, Zack McCall and Oisin Heffernan are sure to come under pressure and they will need every ounce of energy from their second rows Alex Thompson and David O'Connor at the scrum.

The back row is well-balanced between the athleticism of Josh Murphy, the groundhog dog of Rory Moloney and the hard edge of Lorcan Dow.

The fact is Argentina will have nine back from last year, including both locks Vittorio Rosti and Ignacio Larrague and flanker Jose Deheza in their pack.

The Ireland split works out at Leinster eight, Ulster four, Connacht two and Munster one with captain Nick McCarthy there to nurse Carbery through a baptism of fire.

Ireland: B Dardis (Leinster); C Gaffney (Connacht), G Ringrose (Leinster), S Arnold (Ulster), S Fitzgerald (Munster); J Carbery, N McCarthy (capt); J Loughman (all Leinster), Z McCall (Ulster), O Heffernan, D O'Connor (both Leinster), A Thompson (Ulster), J Murphy (Leinster), R Moloney (Connacht), L Dow (Ulster).

Argentina: E Boffelli; E Achilli, T Granella, B Ezcurra (capt), S Resino; D Miotti, L Bazan-Velez; J Diaz, I Calles, C Bartoloni, V Rosti, I Larrague, J Deheza, L Gasparri, E Olmedo.

ireland U-20 RUGBY

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